Remember that you need to give credit to authors whose words or ideas you are using in your paper. The citations you will provide within the text of your paper will help your reader a) to know who said the words you quoted or paraphrased, and b) to locate the full information about that source on your Works Cited page in case the reader wishes to consult the sources you've used.
In MLA style, referring to the works of others in your text is done by using what is known as parenthetical citation. Immediately following a quotation from a source or a paraphrase of a source's ideas, you place information in parentheses that identifies the source, i.e. where you found the quote or information. The source information required in a parenthetical citation depends on a few factors-- a) whether or not you include information about the source in the text, b) whether or not there is a known author of the source and c) whether or not the source has page numbers. in include the author's name followed by a space and the relevant page number(s).
MLA format follows the author-page method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the page number(s) from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken must appear in the text, and a complete reference should appear on your Works Cited page. The author's name may appear either in the sentence itself or in parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase, but the page number(s) should always appear in the parentheses, not in the text of your sentence. For example:
Wordsworth stated that Romantic poetry was marked by a "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (263).
Romantic poetry is characterized by the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (Wordsworth 263).
Wordsworth extensively explored the role of emotion in the creative process (263).
Both citations in the examples above, (263) and (Wordsworth 263), tell readers that the information in the sentence can be located on page 263 of a work by an author named Wordsworth. If readers want more information about this source, they can turn to the Works Cited page at the end of the paper, where, alphabetically, under the name of Wordsworth, they would find the following information:
Wordsworth, William. Lyrical Ballads. London: Oxford U.P., 1967. Print.
For Print sources like books, magazines, scholarly journal articles, and newspapers, provide a signal word or phrase (usually the author's last name) and a page number. If you provide the signal word/phrase in the sentence, you do not need to include it in the parenthetical citation.
Human beings have been described by Kenneth Burke as "symbol-using animals" (3).
Human beings have been described as "symbol-using animals" (Burke 3).
These examples must correspond to an entry that begins with Burke, which will be the first thing that appears on the left-hand margin of an entry in the Works Cited:
Burke, Kenneth. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method . Berkeley: UC Press, 1966. Print.
When a source has no known author, use a shortened title of the work instead of an author name. Place the title in quotation marks if it's a short work (e.g. articles) or italicize it if it's a longer work (e.g. plays, books, television shows, entire websites) and provide a page number.
We see so many global warming hotspots in North America likely because this region has “more readily accessible climatic data and more comprehensive programs to monitor and study environmental change . . . ” (“Impact of Global Warming” 6).
In this example, since the reader does not know the author of the article, an abbreviated title of the article appears in the parenthetical citation which corresponds to the full name of the article which appears first at the left-hand margin of its respective entry in the Works Cited. Thus, the writer includes the title in quotation marks as the signal phrase in the parenthetical citation in order to lead the reader directly to the source on the Works Cited page. The Works Cited entry appears as follows:
“The Impact of Global Warming in North America.” Global Warming: Early Signs . 1999. Web. 23 Mar. 2009.
[* The information above on In-text Citations is from the Purdue OWL: MLA Formatting and Style Guide. Click on the link for more details.]
When you are citing online sources (from a webpage or an online database such as PowerSearch or Proquest), you run into a special problem: electronic sources don't have page numbers. In these cases, you will need to cite the author's name as usual, but don't include page numbers, e.g.
Note: If you happen to be using a source which numbers its paragraphs or has section divisions, headings or numbers, you can use this information in place of page numbers. For example:
Begin the parenthetical citation with the abbreviation "qtd. in."